E1 and E2 Visas for Treaty Trader or Treaty Investors

The E visa category allows citizens of treaty countries to engage in activities as a treaty trader, as a treaty investor, or as an employee of a qualifying entity that in turn must be a treaty trader or investor, in the United States.

Treaty traders (E-1) engage in substantial international trade of goods, services, or technology between the treaty country and the United States.

Treaty investors (E-2) direct and develop a business in which the investor has either already invested or is in the process of investing.

A treaty country is a foreign country with which a qualifying Treaty of Friendship, Commerce or Navigation or its equivalent exists with the United States.  An E1 or E2 visa is ideal for start ups by nationals of countries such as Canada, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, the Netherlands, Egypt, just to name a few.  For a complete list of treaty countries whose nationals may qualify for an E1 and/or E2 visa, see U.S. Department of State’s webpage on treaty countries.

Requirements: Treaty Trader (E-1)

  • The applicant must be a national of a treaty country.
  • The trading firm for which the applicant is coming to the U. S. must have the nationality of the treaty country, meaning persons with the treaty country’s nationality must own at least 50% of the enterprise.
  • The international trade must be “substantial” in that there is a continuous flow of sizable international trade items involving numerous transactions over time. There is no minimum requirement regarding the monetary value or volume of each transaction.
  • The international trade must be principally between the U.S. and the treaty country, meaning that at least 50% of the total amount of trade conducted by the applicant or his/her enterprise or employer must be between the U.S. and the treaty nation.
  • Trade means the international exchange of items of trade for consideration between the U.S. and the treaty country.  Items of trade include but are not limited to goods, services, international banking, insurance, transportation, tourism and/or technology. Title of the trade items must pass from one party to the other.
  • The applicant must be an essential employee, employed in a supervisory or executive capacity or possess highly specialized skills essential to the efficient operation of the firm. Ordinary skilled or unskilled workers do not qualify.

Requirements: Treaty Investor (E-2)

  • The investor must be a national of a treaty country.
  • The investment must be substantial. It must be sufficient to ensure the successful operation of the enterprise. The percentage of investment for a low-cost business enterprise must be higher than the percentage of investment in a high-cost enterprise.
  • The investment must be a real operating enterprise, an active commercial or entrepreneurial undertaking. A paper organization, speculative or idle investment does not qualify. Uncommitted funds in a bank account or similar security are not considered an investment.
  • The investment may not be marginal. It must generate significantly more income than just to provide a living to the investor and family, or it must have a significant economic impact in the U.S.
  • The investor must have control of the funds, and the investment must be at risk in the commercial sense. Loans secured with the assets of the investment enterprise are not allowed.
  • The investor must be coming to the U.S. to develop and direct the operations of the enterprise. If the applicant is not the principal investor, he or she must be employed in a supervisory, executive, or highly specialized skill capacity. Ordinary skilled and unskilled workers do not qualify.

Period of Stay

E1/E2 status are granted a maximum initial stay of up to two years (the consulate may issue an E visa for up to five years). The foreign national may apply for new E1/E2 visas or two-year extensions indefinitely as long as he or she continues to engage in appropriate treaty activities.  There is no maximum limit to the number of extensions that may be granted.  However, all E1/E2 nonimmigrants must maintain an intention to depart the U.S. when their status expires or is terminated.

An E1/E2 nonimmigrant who travels abroad may generally be granted an automatic two-year period of readmission when returning to the U.S.

Family

Treaty traders and Treaty investors may be accompanied or followed by dependent spouses and unmarried children who are under 21 years of age. Their nationalities need not be the same as the treaty trader or treaty employee. Dependent spouses are eligible to apply for employment authorization.  If approved, there is no specific restriction as to where the E1/E2 spouse may work.

Contact Alison Yew, an experienced E1 and E2 visa attorney for a free immigration evaluation. She will help determine whether you are eligible for an E1/E2 visa or status in the United States.